Warning: This post will spoil the ending, so don't read it unless you've beaten it (or don't care).
Title: Prince of Persia 4 (2008)
Rent or Buy?: Rent
Time Taken: 3 days, maybe 15 hours
First, let me say that I mostly enjoyed my time beating the newest Prince of Persia. There were parts that really ticked me off (camera angles, repetitiveness, etc.) Now let me follow that up with this: it was all going great until the end. The end was… frustrating. It was frustrating because I can see why it had to be done, but why couldn't it have been something that didn't totally undo EVERYTHING I DID IN THE GAME.
I did not want Elika to die. I was in the same boat as the prince… but I also didn't want to free that slow, half-retarded God Ahriman (seriously, he isn't smart enough to punch ahead of where you're going). It was like the whole game was about getting me to like the characters and I really did, then they drop the bomb even though I knew it was going to happen. I kept hoping they wouldn't ruin it, hoping that they would find another way to keep her alive without unleashing the God. THANKS GOD OF LIGHT, lots of good you did!
I wrote this post after talking with some people about it and standing back and thinking about why they did this. It is obvious that they are doing a sequel, otherwise it would have been the happy ending. Is it a testament to their narrative abilities that they pissed me off? Doesn't that mean it was a good story? Maybe. One thing is for sure, they can redeem themselves with the next game. If they leave Elika to die in the next game, then I'm really going to be disappointed. It's like those authors that have these epic trilogies and then at the end, kill a character you were really attached to. I hate it, I don't care if it's supposed to be a "tragedy" or whatever, I like happy endings!
Enough of the story, I don't want to think about it. What of the actual gameplay? I'm sorry to say that it suffered from the same problems Assassin's Creed did. Fun but repetitive. Sometimes it felt like they just put stuff in between things that really didn't need to be there. Like, for example, jumping and whizzing about the Temple at the end. Or that whole "boss fight" with Ahriman. He seemed pretty dumb to me.
Still, I have to say that it couldn't be all bad because I beat it in the span of 3 days. What kept me going? The characters, mostly… waiting for those two to get together, but also the environments were very well done. The fact that you couldn't die also kept me playing, knowing I could do whatever I wanted and suffer no consequences. During fights I really did not enjoy the "push the button quick or else the dude will regenerate half his health!" moments. I was playing on PC, and the icons were in the Xbox 360's colors for ABXY. That didn't translate well and I found myself pressing the wrong buttons all too often. This was mostly alright except that the worst part of the whole game was trying to maneuver The Warrior into those stupid wooden columns. I was almost going to just turn the game off because it took like 15 minutes to try and do it.
Understand that I am not someone who enjoys failing at the same thing 20 times ala Ninja Gaiden, God of War, etc. After 3 times I usually quit. That's just how I am. At the same time, I felt PoP was too easy… which is a paradox, I know. I think it was because of the almost fully automated platform mechanics. Just press the right button and the Prince will do his thing, without your control. Assassin's Creed at least let me do whatever I want, and I felt like it was me who was doing everything. In PoP, it feels like you're telling the Prince what to do and he goes and does it. Don't ask how it should have been, I have no idea. I feel like these complaints are just because of how the gameplay mechanic works and perhaps there's no real solution. My constructive feedback to Ubisoft Montreal is to add better puzzles, or just more of them. I did like how it broke up the monotony to take some time and solve a puzzle.
I also think that you should hold our hands less. We are smart people, us gamers, we don't need to be told what to do every second. Look at Portal. No hand holding there. Even if it used visual indicators, it still left it up to you to figure out how to get there. In this, scratch marks on the walls tell you where to go. Why are there scratch marks there? It is a sad fact that platforming games will never fully explain why everything is there for the player to succeed. How come that platform there is there? What use did it have before I came along? I can't hold it against the game, as I wouldn't hold it against the myriad of previous platforming games.
I've also heard about other reviewers complain about the voice acting and its lack of… ethnicity. This was a "problem" in Assassin's Creed too but if you asked around, the assistant tells you its because the Animus can't translate everything or whatever. Then again, why do the rest of the cast have good voice acting or ethnic voices? Like AC, PoP has Californians do the main characters. The small difference is that I actually liked PoP's voice actors… I actually didn't mind the lack of ethnicity to be honest, it was like Aladdin. I don't think it takes away any from the narrative. I don't know if the humor the Prince used would be lost on some other actor. I, for one, enjoyed the banter back and forth between the Prince and Elika. Maybe it was cheesy, but I thought it better than a lot of games.
Elika: Haven't you heard that good things come to those who wait?
Prince: Good things are good things, why wait?
I really do feel like the actors did a good job portraying their character's personalities. This makes sense for Elika, being voiced by Kari Wahlgren, a great actress that you've probably heard in other games (Soul Calibur IV, Tales of Symphonia, Ninja Gaiden 2, FF12, etc.). Matt Mullins, the guy who does the Prince has a great voice and he actually does put comedic inflection into his acting, which really helped portray the Prince's character well. The two of them go together very well, their voices complement each other.
My final score? I'd give the game a B+. It was good enough to want to beat but frustrating and lacking in some parts that dragged it down.